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Cops, Southwark Playhouse – Review

On paper Cops sounds like a strong proposition. Set in 1950s Chicago, the police are tracking the star witness in an upcoming trial. Their task is simple; grab the witness before the mob stop him from talking. Four officers are assigned to the operation, all coming from different backgrounds and bringing their own life experience into play. The production is based on true events and aims to capture the tension and pace of a changing world. It certainly has its moments and is authentically styled to represent the period. However, it soon falls into a 'thriller by numbers' format,…

Summary

Rating

Good

A promising play, undermined by its slow pace and an over-reliance on clichés, but with a good cast to keep it ticking over.

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On paper Cops sounds like a strong proposition. Set in 1950s Chicago, the police are tracking the star witness in an upcoming trial. Their task is simple; grab the witness before the mob stop him from talking. Four officers are assigned to the operation, all coming from different backgrounds and bringing their own life experience into play. The production is based on true events and aims to capture the tension and pace of a changing world. It certainly has its moments and is authentically styled to represent the period. However, it soon falls into a ‘thriller by numbers’ format, and never quite shakes the ‘cops with doughnuts’ scenario.

Southwark Playhouse‘s studio theatre provides the venue, adding a frisson of expectation as the audience get up close and personal. The cops in question share the stage for the most part and bounce off each other as we learn something of their lives and personalities, including the job in hand. Stan (Roger Alborough) is the greybeard on the team; a Forest Gump type of character who seems to have witnessed every Chicago crime in the previous 30 years. Rosey (Daniel Francis) is the cool, wisecracking dude who keeps everyone grounded, whilst Foxy (Jack Flammiger) is the cocky young buck, seemingly unconcerned by the powder keg in their midst. Finally we have Eulee (James Sobol Kelly), the weary but steady hand on the tiller.

The narrative unwinds methodically, but is painfully slow on occasion, taking far too long to reach key plot points. Running for almost two and a half hours (including the interval) this production can be heavy going. It does enough to hold the attention, but there appears to be a degree of repetition, especially in Acts I and II where the team have to repeat the same stake-out operation. Surveillance ops is the only time police lookout Hurley (Ben Keaton) makes an appearance, although it’s not entirely clear why (at least to this reviewer). This may have been necessary to continuity of the plot, but didn’t warrant the same treatment in Act II. Overall, an engaging story emerges but it could just have got there a bit sooner.

Written by: Tony Tortora
Directed by: Andy Jordan
Produced by: Brian Daniels and Andy Jordan
Box Office: 020 7407 0234
Booking Link: https://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/show/cops/
Booking Until: 1 February 2020

About Brian Penn

Brian Penn
Civil Servant. Brian flirted with drama at school but artistic differences forced a painful separation. At least he knows what his motivation is. Now occupying a safe position in the audience he enjoys all kinds of theatre. He was bitten by the theatrical bug after watching a production of Tommy in his teens. Other passions include films, TV and classic rhythm and blues. He also finds time for quizzes, football and squash. A keen sports fan, his enthusiasm crashes to a halt whenever anyone mentions golf. A musical based on the life of Tiger Woods could be his greatest challenge.